Take Five: Where to go, how to get there

New Year’s resolutions? Bah! Humbug!

When I am assisted by a hot toddy, a nice dinner, witty talk and a glass of vintage wine, I have honest and honorable intentions toward the idea of making resolutions for the New Year.

As the days wear on, the resolutions, plans, pep talks and good ideas wear off — and by the end of January, the enviable objectives have gone. Back are the old habits (some good, actually), but other new ideas have been shattered on the rocks of our too-busy lives.

But it’s still early. So here’s my reason for humbug. Resolutions don’t necessary work, but family plans do — at least in our family.

Here are some ideas on practical planning for a new year and not a resolution in sight.

First, assess your current condition and situation. Where are you (and your family) on life’s path? How often do you and your spouse and/or kids get together for a family business meeting?

I use the word “outcome” a lot when I’m mapping out goals, realistic deadlines and blueprints. What outcome am I looking for?

Four broad categories help me define where I am at the moment and where I want/need to go, thus the outcome on family, business-financial, spiritual and health.

The first thing I want to gauge is where my wife Marilyn and I are in our lives. We look at what’s going on, what’s happening near- and long-term, which is no more that 12-18 months. Just like everyone, our lives change almost daily. Maybe not a momentous event, but for sure we have events we plan — and then life steps in and surprises us. There’s no way to structure an unexpected happening, but we have to be able not to be overcome with a jolt.

We usually look at the year just ending to get feedback on how well we did with last year’s planning and what mistakes we made. We almost always make an error or two somewhere along the way.

We prioritize each of the categories by the months ahead. We know there will be weddings and graduations in the spring and summer. We know the months in which we may be taking a vacation. We know that the holidays need a little planning — even while our family list is changing. And so on. We do not dig too deeply in these forecasts. I don’t want to get caught up in minutiae. Tiny little items will bog us down, we are looking at the big picture here.

We used to have our children sit around the dining table after a great dinner that may have featured their favorite dessert. We held a conference that always made the kids feel important, at whatever age.

We asked for their opinions.

This is always very surprising. Once, our son, who may have been 8 or 9 at the time, said he thought we spent too much time planning his sisters’ birthdays and not enough time on his. He had a dream of what he wanted for his birthday and wanted to talk about it. After a moment, Marilyn and I realized that because his birthday was in December, we probably did play down its importance. Here we were discussing a planned trip to Salt Lake City and he popped up with this observation, which in his mind was what the conference meant — to talk, to voice his opinion, and to be heard.

So resolutions, humbug! But the family conference, cheers. You may still have time for your own dinner table talk. Just watch out for that glass of wine.

GENE PEPPER is a published author and writer. Contact him by email at gpep@aol.com or phone (818) 790-1990.

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